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Say what you will about Michael Bisping, but the sport of mixed martial arts would certainly lose one of its gamest fighters if his hints become reality and he decides to retire. Even when he loses, “The Count” finds a way to come back and win over fans.
The 39-year-old winner of Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter” began his career in 2004 and enjoyed a string of victories before suffering his first loss in a split decision to Rashad Evans at UFC 78. As the sport grew in popularity, Bisping never let his setbacks interfere with his thirst to compete. Perhaps that’s why his considering retirement shakes some of us. With that said, no one wants to see fighters hang around longer than they should. Many fighters are afforded opportunities to avenge their losses, but few excel at it the way Bisping has throughout his career.
Luke Rockhold faced Bisping in the UFC Fight Night 55 main event on Nov. 7, 2014 and finished him with a second-round guillotine choke. Later, a rematch was made when “The Count” stepped in as a replacement for the injured Chris Weidman. Because of the decisive nature of his first loss, no one gave Bisping much of a chance to dethrone the middleweight champion at UFC 99; because of the short-notice booking, most pundits thought Rockhold would have an easy night. Bisping authored one of the most surprising upsets of 2016, when he knocked out Rockhold and captured the undisputed UFC middleweight championship.
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship airs highlight reels of its most memorable knockouts, Bisping’s loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 100 makes the rounds; and working on a show like “UFC Tonight,” he probably sees it more than he would like. In 2016, Bisping was given the opportunity to pay back Henderson in their UFC 204 rematch. He not only survived Henderson’s “H-bombs” but pulled out a win and retained the middleweight title. In the span of four months, Bisping avenged two of the most devastating defeats of his career.
Bisping squared off with Georges St. Pierre at UFC 217 in Madison Square Garden and surrendered the 185-pound championship in a technical submission loss in November. Three weeks later, he accepted a short-notice assignment against Kelvin Gastelum, only to be violently knocked out by “The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner.
Considering his accomplishments and place in the sport’s history, Bisping’s next stop may be the UFC Hall of Fame. He may be hinting at retirement, but his actions say something else: Bisping egged on Gastelum prior to UFC 224. Maybe he’s not ready to quit just yet.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since UFC 1. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.